Well. This is certainly very interesting. The Catholic News Agency on December 8 published the following news piece:
Pope highlights Mary's role as 'woman of the apocalypse'
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the biblical description of a “woman clothed with the sun” in his remarks at Rome's Spanish Steps on the 2011 Feast of the Immaculate Conception. “What is the meaning of this image? It represents the Church and Our Lady at the same time,” the Pope told the crowd assembled before the nearby statue commemorating the 1854 definition of Mary's Immaculate Conception. “Before all, the 'woman' of the apocalypse is Mary herself.” The 12th chapter of the Biblical Apocalypse – also known as the Book of Revelation – describes the glorification and persecution of “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Though not named, this woman is described as the mother of the Messiah. In poetic language akin to the Bible's other prophetic books, Saint John says she faced the threat of “a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns,” and “fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”
The Pope is welcome to his interpretation, but since the Catholic Church has misrepresented so much else (hell/purgatory, Mary as perpetual virgin, Mary ascended sinless to heaven, indulgences, justification by works, saint worship and more) then let us view with skepticism that Pope Benedict is right about the woman of Revelation being Mary. If she is not, then what is the more proper exegetical view of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head? (Revelation 12:1b).
The woman is not the Church. The woman is Israel.
Remember the dream Joseph had in Genesis 37:9? "And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me." The 12 tribes of Israel were borne through Jacob, his father. The stars refer to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Further, she is giving birth to Messiah. "While it is true that Mary gave birth to Jesus, it is also true that Jesus, the son of David from the tribe of Judah, came from Israel. In a real sense, Israel gave birth—or brought forth—Christ Jesus. Further evidence for this is in 12:5 where the Scripture says that the woman "gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne." Clearly, this is describing Jesus." (Source GotQuestions.org)
The lessons here are several. First, even when a supposed spiritual authority makes an interpretation, it may not be correct. Be a Berean and search these things out for yourself. Paul was a spiritual authority, taught by the risen Jesus Himself but still applauded the Bereans for checking what he said against scripture. (Acts 17:11). He called them noble for doing it.
Second, scripture interprets scripture. That may not mean that one verse has to be next to the other in order to give fuller meaning to an understanding. Joseph had his dream in Genesis and the woman is mentioned again in Revelation. But scripture tells us if we appeal to the Holy Spirit for understanding, He will give it without rebuke. (James 1:5).
Third, the Catholic Church is almost obsessively focused on Mary and not nearly enough on Jesus. The lesson here is to make sure to give your focus and attention on the proper spiritual center of the universe, Jesus, in Whom all things hold together. (Col 1:17). It is not by any other name we are saved. (Acts 4:12).
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